Six simple steps to prospecting success

 In Thought Leadership

The prospect of prospecting

We’re proud to prospect.
Prospecting gets a bad rap.  Dismissed as the grunt work of the sales process, at best, a necessary evil.
For us, though, it’s a pure, unadulterated pleasure.
The reason the thought of prospecting instils either tedium, fear or revulsion is not too hard to understand. Very few people do it well, and no-one likes to slog away at something that yields minimal success.

That’s why we’re here with six very simple, very specific steps to blow the prospecting doors off.

Every time.

Why trust SoPro?

  • We deliver the first line of the sales process for around 200 B2B businesses.
  • We manage over a million, carefully crafted, targeted prospect engagements each year.
  • We deliver hard to believe results. Cost per lead regularly pans out at around £30 and our lead rates often bubble up over the 8% mark.
  • Have a look at our cross-campaign stats: https://sopro.io/cross-campaign-stats/

We’ve picked up some great insights along the way, it is hard to imagine a more experienced pack of prospecting experts than team SoPro, so today we’re here to share some tips on what works and what doesn’t.

Improving your prospects

We’ve smelted our gold dust down to just a few valuable nuggets of wisdom, six simple steps to improve your prospecting performance.  Each with the ability to double your conversion rate and halve your lead cost.

Okay, Day 1 – let’s assume your scores on the doors look something like this:

Poor lead rate, high cost per conversion, high cost per b2b lead, unsatisfiedPoor you.

It’s no wonder you claim prospecting is the unglamorous side of B2B sales and can be heard muttering under your breath about the shit end of the stick.

Let us sex things up a little for you.  Let’s turn your uninspiring lead rate and frankly embarrassing cost per lead into the talk of the town.

Here’s what you’re aiming for.

The lead rate is very high at 8% and cost per lead is very low £30; that is what you wantHard to believe there are just six easy steps to take you from zero to hero.

Step 1: Choose the right channels

choosing the right channels step for b2b lead generation in UKYour first step to greatness is child’s play – simple as chips, choose the right channels and forget the rest.

Here’s a secret, there’s a classic case of hedging bets that goes on with digital marketing, or to be more precise, ham fisted number fudgery.  A surprising percentage of companies spread their limited budgets across several channels, as if quantity ever won over quality.

The truth is, there are always one or two channels that outperform the rest.  Sometimes significantly.

Our first lesson is this: forget covering five, ten or fifteen channels and, instead, concentrate on maxing out the one or two channels that truly deliver.

Sales prospecting offers the best cost per lead among other lead generation channels Source – SoPro client survey 2018.

Do what we do – rather than what everyone else does.  Find a couple of channels that work for you, and then forget the rest.

And, if you’re looking for the best place to start, look no further than prospecting.  In B2B scenarios the cost per lead wins hands down, every time.

You just halved your cost per lead.

Step 2: Source the right data

Never buy e-mail list, B2b prospecting data should be taken in real time.

Now that prospecting is a priority channel, you can start focusing on the other things that matter.

Time to lock sights on the source of your data.

The thing is, prospect data has a very short shelf life and nothing less than 100% fresh data will do.

The first rule of data club is never buy lists.   The second rule of data club is never buy lists.  

We also recommend burning your database.

You may need a second to pick your jaw off the floor after that sucker punch. While you are reaffixing your chin, let’s explain.

Most studies agree that, on average, we now change roles about once every three years. We recently posted some interesting stats on employment churn here.

This gives any database, owned or bought, a half-life of just 18 months.  Which is to say that any database that is more than 18 months old will most likely contain less than 50% valid data.

Do not buy b2b databases - if they are over 2 years old they will contain more than 50% invalid data.

Prospect data becomes obsolete very fast indeed. It’s half-life hits during year two, but who in their right mind would prospect data that is even a third unreliable?

The data swilling around in your database can easily be four years old. Purchased lists are often even older.  Let’s break down exactly what that means:
Using CRM data instead of fresh prospects limits campaign reach to the same tired list you’ve been hammering for years

  • 20% prospects are valid (I.e. right person, right company)
  • 20% validity increases cost per valid prospect engaged by five times.
  • Using CRM data instead of fresh prospects limits campaign reach to the same tired list you’ve been hammering for years.
  • Poor deliverability is a fast track to blacklisting your domain, mail server IP and/or mail server account. In extreme cases we have literally seen brand names irreparably classified as spam.

A lot can happen to data in four years, but trust us, not a lot will happen to your sales pipeline if you re-use four-year-old data to drum up sales conversations.

Using fresh data is the only reliable way to ensure you are not flogging a dead list.  And by fresh we mean “verified today, accurate today”.  Don’t waste time with any other strategy.

Step 3: Use the right deliverability tech

factors that can build or quickly burn your e-mail repoutation

Congratulations.  You’ve doubled your lead rate twice, halving the cost per lead each time.

Time to lock in the hat trick.

For this we’re going to dive deep into the technology you are using to execute your prospecting activity.

Deliverability

Picture this:

Your Head of IT head is smiling for once.  He’s just checked the deliverability stats and is smuggishly humblebragging another job well done.  A 90% delivery rate on this month’s outbound email activity.

90% – that’s cool isn’t it?

Just one in ten mails bouncing, and you should see how many are going out every day.

Yet, your Head of Marketing is sweating… face contorting like she’s just eaten hot chilli hedgehog.

She knows that 90% a delivery rate could easily see:

  • Your senders IP blacklisted
  • Mail server account suspension or closure
  • The company’s domain and or brand terms blacklisted

So what went wrong?

At the heart of deliverability lies your sender reputation.  This, in turn, is affected by a variety of factors including your domain and mailserver IP reputation. The factors may change but the results of a bad sender reputation are always the same. Senders with a good reputation get mail delivered – and those with a bad rep are junked (or blocked).

You can think of your sending reputation as being like trust:, you get the benefit of the doubt to begin with, it can be quickly and easily lost, and it takes hard work, time, and effort to build up again if lost.  Sometimes the damage is never be repaired.

Here are the factors that can build or quickly burn your rep.

Domain reputation

Your domain reputation is just as critical as the IP address you send from. If messages sent from your domain generate spam complaints and your domain is blacklisted, then switching your senders IP address won’t help.

A poor domain rep ensures messages are fast tracked to spam, wherever they originate from.

IP reputation

Every mailserver uses an IP address or a range of IP addresses to send emails from.

  • If your mailserver pools IP addresses then you also share your senders IP address with the other senders using your mailserver, that means you share their reputation and their practices will directly affect your deliverability. This is a high-risk strategy.
  • For many companies the best advice is not to have one IP address but to segment mail streams across many. This can be done by brand, geography and mail type (i.e. transactional or marketing). These segments ensure that mail streams with lower reps do not affect those that are squeaky clean. And it enables rapid replacement of blacklisted domains if ever needed.

Recipient engagement

For the SEO buffs out there, this is the email equivalent of your websites user experience.  ISPs take note of how your email messages are handled once delivered.

They consider:

  • How often they are opened.
  • How regularly links are clicked.
  • How many unsubscribes or spam reports you receive.
  • How frequently messages are forwarded.
  • How many messages are deleted without being opened.
  • Whether you are white-listed as a contact.

If you are sending poorly targeted emails or using data that is far from fresh your engagement and deliverability metrics will soon suffer.

You’ll be a SPAM box regular before you know it.

Email content

Your email layout, the links it includes and the words in its subject line and body can impact on your reputation.

If your mails look sloppy they may well be marked as spam by the recipient, and you only need to poke your head above the 0.2% ‘marked as spam’ parapet to encounter some very heavy ISP crossfire.

Never use shortened links in your emails, these are treated highly suspiciously as they are often used by spammers to disguise malicious links leading to pages containing malware.

Similarly, watch what links your emails contain.  A link to a website associated with spam or malware can prevent emails from being delivered.

Certain words can trigger spam filters too, especially if overused. Words like win, cash, finance, million, money and earn are obvious examples – but there are many other surprisingly innocuous words that have become associated with spam.

Your best bet is to use an email verification programme, such as mail-tester, to run your emails through prior to sending.

checking e-mail spaminess

Invalid email addresses

Cast your mind back just five minutes and we were telling you never to buy data. It’s not just that the data is no longer fresh – all that old data is adding to your spam rep.

Sending email to a large number of invalid or non-existent email addresses is killing your deliverability… and now your credibility.

Authentication and DNS Management

Authentication refers to how you verify that the mail you send is actually from you – and having poor authentication procedures in place is another way to damage your sender reputation.

  • Publish a SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record
    This identifies which IP addresses are allowed to send emails using your domain.
  • Use DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) signatures
    These ensure that the message that arrives in the inbox has not been tampered with in transit. They carry a great deal of value for your reputation.
  • Publish a DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) record
    This tells inbox providers what you want them to do with email that doesn’t pass SPF and DKIM (i.e. allow it, filter it or reject it). It’s of increasing importance for deliverability.
  • Get A records and PTR records in place
    These point your domain to an IP address and vice versa.
  • Make sure every sending domain can receive mail
    Or you risk being blocked by some ISPs.
  • Use TLS (Transport Layer Security) to send emails
    Another important trust signal, this encrypts emails to prevent any reading of its contents as it passes between sender and receiver.

Step 4: Humanising your message

Humanizing b2b e-mail message - make it personal

Phew.

Glad all that tech stuff is over, it’s not the simplest to cover but the good news is you’ve doubled your performance and halved your lead costs again.

This is going great, and here comes the really easy part.  We’re going to take a look at the messages you are sending.  And we’re going to ask you to do just one simple thing: be a human.

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy.

A prospect is not a job role or a function. They are a human being first – and they’ll respond 10x more readily to messages that treat them as one.

Keep your messages simple and conversational.  You are looking to set up a conversation – and no-one would want to chat to someone who speaks like this:

“Dear Sir,

Intech Software PLC’s recently released technology-driven integrated performance enhancement solution uses patented smart™ data management to provide an unparalleled opportunity to…”

Boring e-mail marketing and fell asleep

The aim here is to knock their socks off but not knock them out cold.

Here’s how you need to craft a short mail that engages prospects.

  • Forget feature and benefit lists
    Instead just outline the end result without worrying too much about the mechanics and steps involved.
  • Forget everything you have read about social proof
    Delete those three big-named clients: instead tell your prospect you know exactly how your service/product will make a big difference at their company.
  • Drop the marketing language and jargon
    Tell it in plain English using simple, uncomplicated sentences.
  • Avoid obvious data insertions
    Data insertions are a fantastic way to target mails – but they’re a real turn-off if they’re noticeable. Always reality check samples of your mails before hitting send.
  • Save the discounts and special offers
    For an engagement mail there’s no need to start desperately discounting. You need to sell your proposition not start skimming off its price.
  • PDF attachments and web links are a no-no
    Your marketing department is going to love you. Not only have you discarded all their carefully crafted sales copy in favour of a conversational tone but you are also going to need to refuse to attach their latest promo piece or insert a link to their latest video or landing page. The fact is, when you look at the stats attachments and web links just distract your prospects from your main aim: to get in contact to find out more.

So, what should your prospecting mail look like?

There’s no right or wrong – but try and take it from this:

 

“Dear Sir,

Intech Software PLC’s recently released technology-driven integrated performance enhancement solution uses patented smart™ data management to provide an unparalleled opportunity to…”

 

To something like this: 

 

“Hi Dave

I read your post on cloud migration last week – really got me thinking about your approach.

Mind if I drop you a call… I have a couple of thoughts I wanted to run past you?

Do you have a few minutes on Thurs?”

Or, if you are feeling truly brave, try this:

brave prospecting message - the art of starting a conversation

We called it the great cow fail experiment – and it was remarkably successful. Not necessarily a top performing campaign but slightly above average.  Certainly enough to make the point that features, benefits and social proof are not the lifeblood of an email campaign that traditional marketing theory purports.

Chaser mails – if at first you don’t succeed…

To err, of course, is human. But so is to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again.

Failing to follow up your prospecting emails is an ROI deal breaker.

Don’t take our word for it though – take a look at some actual factual stats on how many leads come from chasers rather than first shots.

For those not willing to make the click – here’s the headlines.

chaser e-mails response ratesCheck it. Messages two, three and four have a better response rate than opening salvoes. This means that, in practice, 59% of all responses will come from chasers rather than your initial gambit.

So, if you’re too shy to chase – you’re kissing goodbye to the majority of your leads.

Let that sink in.

Step 5: Structuring your sales team

salesperson should pitch not prospect

Going forward we are not going to affect that lead rate – successive doublings have seen it rise higher than most businesses would likely ever achieve internally.

From 0.5% to 8% is a heap of a leap.  Halving the lead cost at every step.

But we can still halve your lead cost once more for luck.


Image source

Picture your average salesperson.

OK – it’s not easy. Let’s make it simpler.

  • Does a salesperson enjoy prospecting?
  • Do they like cold calling?
  • Do they appreciate admin?

They sure as hell don’t. They like pitching, dealmaking and closing.

Yet, who does the task of prospecting usually fall on?

You guessed it: the sales team.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  You don’t expect them to make their own clothes, so why are the sales team making their own leads?

Here’s the new prospecting manifesto:

Salespeople should be back to back pitching: it’s what they love and it’s what they’re good at. The time has come to unhitch prospecting from the sales team and to let people who love it, do it. And when it’s handed over to people who specialise in it, guess what, we’ll do it twice as fast for half the cost… and I can guarantee you’ll more than halve your cost again.Salespeople should be back to back pitching: it’s what they love and it’s what they’re good at.

The time has come to unhitch prospecting from the sales team and to let people who love it, do it.

When it’s handed over to people who specialise in it, guess what, we’ll do it twice as fast for half the cost… and I can guarantee you’ll more than halve your cost again.

And we know this because we’ve done it time and time again… it’s who we are and what we do.

Step 6: Do not go to jail

GDPR and PECR regulation are very expencive and you can end up in jail if you don`t comply

Image credit: mksfly on flickr.com

OK, you’ve guessed what this is about: GDPR

Whilst compliance might not necessarily influence prospecting performance it can quickly bring you down to earth with a monster faceplant if you fall foul of the rules.

Whilst compliance might not necessarily influence prospecting performance it can quickly bring you down to earth with a monster faceplant if you fall foul of the rules.

Your cost per lead is now at £37.50 and your lead rate at 8%.

Just don’t fluff the final hurdle.

GDPR

In late-May, Europe’s data protection rules will have their largest overhaul in 20 years.

The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) hits on May 25th 2018 and it will drastically change how you handle the information you hold about your customers and prospects.

There are new rights for people to access the information you hold about them, obligations for better data management and a new regime of ludicrous mode fines.

The changes include:

  • A clearly defined responsibility for to ensure you have lawful basis to process the personal data you collect.
  • Companies with more than 250 employees must document why people’s information is being collected and processed, how long it’s being kept for and describe the technical security measures they have in place.
  • Anyone who regularly monitors a number of individuals must employ a data protection officer (DPO).
  • Requests for personal information about someone held by you can be made free-of-charge, have strict time limits on compliance and the data is easier to erase.
  • GDPR offences can result in fines of up to €20 million.

We set out more detail on the impact of GDPR on B2B marketing here:  https://sopro.io/solutions/gdpr-pecr-faq/

That’s all folks – go forth and fuel your sales pipeline without spending too much at the pumps.

The best prospecting campaigns deliver a consistent flow leads and at a cost model that works.  Now you know exactly how we operate… we’ve given you the keys to the kingdom.

  • Choose your channels carefully and focus only on those that work
  • Source the right data
  • Use the right deliverability tech
  • Humanise your messaging
  • Leave sales teams to sell (and prospectors to prospect)
  • Avoid those hefty compliance fines

But most of all great results happen when you love what you do.

And boy do we love to prospect.

If you want to convert more prospects for less, then give us a shout, we whistle while we work.

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